Designing Hope acquired a land to set up the “Garden of Skills”. This innovative project wishes to combine on one site, a “Forest Garden” in the middle of which an activity and training center in the areas of agroecology, agroforestry, crafts, and micro-project management will be set up.
Designing Hope and Fundzisa Live NGO, its local partner in Eswatini, acquired a one hectare plot of land in September 2020 in Malanti, a village located 20km from Piggs Peak on the road to the capital, Mbabane, to implement this project.
Currently, Designing Hope and its local partner Fundzisa Live are based in Piggs Peak,
close to the hospital and the bus station. Here, agricultural land is scarce and expensive. For this new project, the women therefore looked for land further away from the city, but easily accessible. The land chosen was proposed by a community where Dessine l’Espoir is working with a school garden, for a very reasonable sum. The sale was approved by the village chief, Dessine l’Espoir having entrusted a lawyer with the drafting of the deed. It was chosen for its accessibility (main road linking Piggs Peak to Mbabane the capital, well served by minibus).
In order to remain close to its activities at Piggs Peak, Designing Hope has obtained from the hospital management the right to build a room on its premises, next to the HIV-AIDS testing centre. This branch will be composed of two rooms that can be used as a room for consultation for young HIV-positive patients, and a patient liaison office for the distribution of food aid.
The “garden-forest” is a principle developed in agroforestry consisting of associating trees, chosen for their ability to fertilise the soil, with market gardening. The varieties of trees will be varied, chosen for the production of wood, the production of nutritious leaves for humans (Moringa) or for use as fodder, fruit production, but also for their capacity to fertilise the soil, reduce evaporation and allow market gardening in an optimised setting.
The land is ideal to serve as an example, as it resembles the vast majority of the land on which the rural and disadvantaged populations in Eswatini live: A mountainside land with a few outcropping rocks. Any challenge taken up on this site can therefore easily be duplicated on the small family plots in the Hlohlo region. It will be planted immediately with a wide variety of trees chosen for their benefits and ability to fertilize the soil.
Vegetable production will feed the parcels distributed to patients at Piggs Peak Hospital.
A greenhouse will produce vegetable seedlings for the gardens of the association’s partner schools on the outskirts of Piggs Peak.
The Garden of Skills is not only an experimental garden, but also a place for training and learning in the fields of sustainable agriculture, nutrition, but also craft skills, administrative and numerical knowledge to to help women find opportunities to support their families. The modules designed will be implemented independently, using the means available, in the form of chalets of varying sizes, adapted to the needs of the various workshops and made to measure. This type of wooden construction, using local resources, is widely used in the region, for health centres and tourist facilities. All the structures will be built by a South African company based in Nelspruit, near the border.
The activity and training centre will propose the activities currently offered to the women, providing workshops equipped for sewing, handicrafts, but also the processing and volorisation of garden products, and the learning of recipes chosen for their nutritional qualities. The sewing room will be much more adapted to the needs, and will enable the women to engage in more ambitious local projects, such as providing school uniforms, and to explore other markets, such as the production of professional clothing, in the health sector for example, by promoting the close links they have established with the hospital.
“Off-site” training courses (agroecology, environmental awareness, nutrition) will be offered in the association’s partner schools, in addition to visits to the garden. The investment in a vehicle (such as a Duster) will enable better monitoring of the projects and regular interventions to be scheduled, partly in the schools supported by the association (located 20 km around Piggs Peak).
The uniforms will be made in a permanent workshop dedicated to sewing, in order to continue the partnership with the 5 schools supported by Designing Hope. The machines will be used for the training of new women (regular training sessions), and the realisation of specific creative projects.
A separate kitchen block will be built, which can be used for cooking classes, in order to raising visitors’ awareness on nutrition, by promoting the vegetables in the garden. Workshops for processing and conservation of production will be offered, with the appropriate equipment at your disposal (drying room for preserving vegetables, canned food). Access to this equipment can be shared with the women of Malanti, subject to a symbolic contribution (rental at a lower cost). The kitchen will also be used to prepare meals for the women and young people in training.
The project foresees the presence of housing units (2 to 4 small individual chalets – bedroom, bathroom) for visitors, volunteers, who wish to share their knowledge with the local population on short stays (Skills in crafts, management, nutrition…). These small chalets can also be developed and used for solidarity tourism and constitute an additional resource for the self-financing of the centre over the long term. Visitors can take part in the life of the association according to their skills, by sharing their time with a visit to the region.
A small shop with products made by the women will also be set up, with the possibility of distributing processed products from the garden.
The Garden of Skills is the modelling of a locally managed activity centre, at the service of the community, to encourage sustainable development initiatives (agroecology, agroforestry, environmental protection), training in traditional trades (sewing, small crafts) and the provision of skills in new technologies, in countries where, despite poverty, most families have access to a connected smartphone.
A project supported by Le Bon Marché Rive Gauche,
with the additional fundings of Raja Foundation (Raja Awards 2020) and The Ivory Foundation